The agreement between the Government of Colombia & FARC rebels is a major step in ending a 5-decade war
BALTIMORE, June 23, 2016—Lutheran World Relief applauds today’s signing of an historic ceasefire accord between the Government of Colombia and FARC rebels that is a major step toward achieving a lasting peace and ending five decades of war.
The agreement, announced in Havana, where peace talks have taken place since November 2012, seeks to end the bloody conflict that has claimed 220,000 lives and displaced more than 6.3 million people, a global total second only to Syria.
The inclusion of conflict victims in the talks was unprecedented and various chapters of the peace agreement draft include not only transitional justice but also a plan for investment for a “new Colombian countryside.”
“With the potential end to decades of violence and insecurity the international community needs to support Colombia in investing in rural areas and building a viable peace dividend for those who suffered most in the war,” said Ambassador Daniel V. Speckhard (Rt.), LWR president & CEO.
Although this agreement is a promising step toward a full peace, challenges remain, including launching negotiations with the last remaining major guerrilla group, the ELN, and dismantling the paramilitary groups that continue to terrorize citizens.
LWR has worked in Colombia since the late 1990s, supporting cooperatives and rural populations, including Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, to help increase their incomes and claim their rights under the Victims and Land Restitution laws. Our current focus builds on this work to promote innovative programs with the private sector, which link the promise of peace to family food security in former conflict areas.
LWR urges the U.S. Government and its special envoy to continue its invaluable support of the peace process so it will result in the implementation of a final deal. This high-level political support is crucial.
The role of the U.S. in securing and building on this peace will be crucial. The U.S. should assist in providing resources for demobilization, cease-fire monitoring and other key aspects of implementation while pressing for more effective protection for human rights defenders and the displaced as they seek safe and sustainable return of land. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) should follow through on its promising country strategy to support local government functions and services in order to reinvigorate newly peaceful rural areas.
Ambassador Daniel Speckhard is president and CEO of Lutheran World Relief, an international humanitarian organization. He previously served in both Republican and Democratic administrations as ambassador to Greece and to Belarus, deputy chief of Mission in Iraq, and a senior official at NATO.